The days of scrubbing our faces with our hands alone are long gone, and in their place is the age of cleansing tools. Even a warm, damp washcloth is considered amateur hour—it’s all about oscillating brushes, silicone “touch points,” and things that both need to be charged and look way more suggestive than they actually are. (“It’s not a vibrator,” we tell every houseguest and TSA agent ever.)
If you’re experiencing some confusion over how, exactly, these tools differentiate from one another, and even more confusion over which one is most useful for your skin, we’re more than happy to explain. And if you’re hesitant to spend a chunk of change on something you’ll only be using to wash your face, don’t worry—we’ve got you covered on that front too.
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If you haven't heard much about the Luna, it's not for lack of quality: It's a slightly newer, less "hyped" take on the battery-powered cleansing tool, but it's just as formidable as the Clarisonic in efficacy. If the idea of the Clarisonic's brush grosses you out—you have to clean it and replace it regularly, and improper storage of a wet brush leaves plenty of opportunities for bacteria to find a home—then you'll find the Luna's silicone material much more palatable.
It uses low-frequency pulsations and circular touch-points rather than full-on "oscillation" to gently unclog pores and shed dead skin cells. It comes in three models—one for ultra-sensitive skin, one for normal skin, and one for combination skin—at $199 and a mini version at $139, it's user friendly, and it leaves skin soft and clear without that scrubbed-down feeling.
Good for: Anyone, especially those with sensitive skin, and germaphobes.
The very first innovation in the skin care biz to inspire the thought that, hey, maybe we really should be using cleansing "tools" to wash our faces, the Clarisonic still holds up as the go-to for anyone and everyone who just realized they could benefit from a deeper, machine-powered clean. Different models offer varying levels of intensity and customization—and price point—from the single-speed MIA 1 ($99) to the much more advanced four-speed Smart Profile ($265, shown), which adjusts automatically between gentle and deep cleansing for your cleanest face ever. No, really—your face will feel bizarrely clean.
Good for: Anyone, everyone, etc.
If you're not very excited about spending over $100 on something you'll only use to wash your face, but still want to get a little more involved, a straightforward silicone pad like the Sephora Collection Precision Pore Cleansing Pad ($6) will do the trick. The tiny exfoliating bristles will definitely give you a deeper, more thorough clean than your hands alone, and it's cheap, travel-friendly, and does not require replacing any brushes or pushing any buttons. Zero hassle, zero complaints.
Good for: The budget-conscious and anyone who wants to keep things simple.
Not your average sponge, konjac is an Asian root vegetable that has much more going for it than just being an exfoliating vessel for your favorite cleanser: Konjac is naturally alkaline, so it balances skin's pH and acidity, and it's enriched with protein, iron, copper, zinc, and an array of vitamins, so you're getting those benefits and the benefits of said favorite cleanser. It has a soft, squishy feel and is naturally antibacterial, so you don't have to worry about leaving it lying around in your bathroom. The sponge is so gentle, you can even use it in the insanely delicate under-eye area—that says a lot about how skin-friendly it is. We like Boscia Konjac Cleansing Sponge ($15), which is the only card-carrying 100 percent preservative-free cleansing sponge available in North America.
Good for: Everyone, especially people who like to keep things on the natural side.
Manual cleansing brush
Straightforward and effective, your one-size-fits-all cleansing brush uses gentle fibers to exfoliate and encourage better circulation. There are plenty of iterations on the market at various price points, but we're partial to the 100% Pure Facial Cleansing Brush ($21), which uses—very important!—antibacterial synthetic fibers. It's also so, so soft, so while your skin will feel fresher and cleaner than if you had just used your hands, it won't scratch or damage the skin's surface, and you can use it daily with your cleanser of choice. Think of it kind of like a hand-operated Clarisonic.
Good for: Anyone with sensitive skin prone to roughness or uneven texture—it'll very gently help shed those dead skin cells.